In 306 Hollywood, co-directors Elan and Jonathan Bogarin, brother and sister, visit the home of their grandmother, Annette Ontell, after she passes away. The film's title refers to the address of her home, 306 Hollywood Avenue. Instead of selling the home right away, Elan and Jonathan wait 11 months for Annette's spirit to depart. Meanwhile, they rummage through her belongings in an attempt to learn more about her past. Fortunately, Annette had let Elan film her being interviewed once a year for a span of 10 years. The footage of those interviews are the film's heart and soul because that's when you get to see and hear what Annette's personality was like. She comes across as a very warm, charismatic and candid human being. There's so much more to her than meets the eye which makes her all the more interesting. The filmmakers incorporate lively filmmaking styles into the doc, i.e. an actresss lip syncing to audio recordings of Annette, which add some refreshing flair and make the doc more cinematic. If you've recently lost someone you love, 306 Hollywood might be very difficult to sit through, but at least it doesn't dwell on the brother and sister's grief. Instead, it essentially turns lemons into lemonade by shedding light on her life---with the help of excavists and archivists---while turning their grief into a very healing and surprisingly life-affirming experience. At a running time of 95 minutes, 306 Hollywood is a genuinely poignant, illuminating and well-edited documentary. El Tigre opens it at Quad Cinema.
Matangi/Maya/M.I.A is a documentary biopic about a musician/artist/activist known as M.I.A. Director Stephen Loveridge, a friend of M.I.A, combines archival footage from M.I.A's childhood and more recent footage to tell the story of how she rose to fame while providing audiences with background information regarding what her family life was like growing up. You do, somewhat, get to know M.I.A.'s personality in the process. While that information is interesting, it would've been far more interesting to focus more her political and other beliefs which would have added much-needed depth to the film. An example of a squandered opportunity to add insight is when she fails to elaborate on why she showed her middle finger during an NFL half-time show which got her into trouble or how she truly feels about it. This isn't the kind of doc that does a good job of getting inside its subject's head like RGB managed to do so successfully. If you're a fan of her M.I.A's music, at least you'll enjoy the scenes with her music. The doc doesn't have enough style nor any good editing to compensate for its lack of substance, unfortunately. At a running time of 90 minutes, which feels more like 2 hours, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A is a mildly engaging, but intellectually underwhelming documentary with clunky editing. It opens via Abramorama and Cinereach at IFC Center.